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  1. UPDATED 9 January 2022 (Updated ship information) Construction of Royal Caribbean's new Cruise Terminal is in progress, with completion planned in time for the arrival of Allure of the Seas on 13 Nov 2022. Galveston is the fourth busiest cruise port in the USA and the 11th busiest in the world. Cruise ships calling Galveston their home port include: (this is a fluid situation and dates may not be accurate) Allure of the Seas - 225,282 GT - 5,484 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Arrives 13 Nov 2022 from Ft. Lauderdale) Liberty of the Seas - 154,407 GT - 3,648 Passengers - 7 night sailings (Repositions to Fort Lauderdale on 30 Oct 2022) Adventure of the Seas - 137,276 GT - 3,114 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Repositions to Cape Liberty 29 Apr 2022. Returns to Galveston 27 Oct 2022.) Grandeur of the Seas - 73,817 GT - 1,992 Passengers - 4-5 night sailings (Arrives 4 May 2022 and repositions to Miami 2 Nov 2022) Carnival Vista - 133,500 GT - 3,934 Passengers Carnival Dream - 130,000 GT - 3,646 Passengers Carnival Breeze - 130,000 GT - 3,690 Passengers Disney Wonder - Nov/Dec/Jan holiday sailings each year Cruise Terminal 1, which serves mainly Carnival, is the largest single-berth cruise facility in the world at over 257,000 square feet. Cruise Terminal 2 which currently serves Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney, was expanded in 2017 to accommodate larger (Freedom Class) cruise ships. Planning & Tourist Info You can't beat this website for information on everything that is happening in Galveston: www.galveston.com Transportation Fly into HOU (Houston Hobby Airport) if you can. It's much closer to Galveston than IAH (Bush Intercontinental Airport) and you won't have the Houston traffic to deal with. Tip: HOU is a large hub for Southwest Airlines. They often don't show up on the travel booking sites so you need to book at www.southwest.com. You can't beat their "bags fly free" policy and "no change fees". Here are some options for getting to Galveston from the airport: Galveston Limo - provides very affordable shared rides from the two Houston airports with either their scheduled service (8 trips per day) or you can arrange a private car. Owned by a local family of good folks. Galveston Express Lyft and Uber - Lyft and Uber now operate in Galveston. Lyft has a contract with the Port of Galveston to bring passengers to and from the cruise terminals. Uber has chosen not to sign a contract with the Port, but can still operate in other areas of Galveston. Enterprise Rent A Car - Enterprise is the only rental car company on the island. You should be able to rent from Enterprise at the airport and drop it off on the Island. The Island location is open on Saturday, and before cruises shut down it was also open on Sunday, so you can drop off on the weekends as well as weekdays. Check with Enterprise directly for updated hours and shuttle arrangements. Arriving By Car I-45 is undergoing several phases of construction that will continue through 2022 and beyond. TxDOT is widening I-45 all the way to Galveston Island. I-45 south ends on Galveston Island. When arriving on the island, if you turn off at the "Cruise Terminal" exit (Harborside Drive) you will hit a traffic back-up as you approach the cruise terminals. To avoid this traffic jam, as you drive down I-45 and arrive on the Island, continue straight on Broadway as the interstate ends and follow these directions: Continue straight on Broadway as the interstate ends. Continue to 23rd street and turn left. Follow 23rd and it will dead end at the entrance to the cruise terminals. This route will avoid the lengthy backup on Harborside Drive. As you enter the Cruise Terminal area, turn left to bypass the Carnival Cruise drop-off area, then you will see your Royal Caribbean ship at Terminal 2. Drop your luggage with the porters, and then proceed to your parking location. It is highly recommended that you drop your luggage at the terminal before parking. This prevents you from lugging all of those suitcases on and off of a shuttle bus. Parking If you search "Galveston cruise parking" you will see plenty of parking options. I highly recommend making a reservation on line with one of the parking companies, especially if you want an indoor or garage space as these will sell out (especially now, with so many ships sailing from Galveston). Prepaying usually gets you a 5-10% discount and a guaranteed parking space. Things to consider in addition to price: Elevation - heavy rains can quickly flood the streets of Galveston, and not just during a hurricane. Leaving your car in an elevated spot will provide peace of mind against flooding if an unexpected storm comes in. Walk or Shuttle? - most parking lots have shuttle service, but some offer "park & walk" for a discount (shuttle companies have to pay a fee to the Port of Galveston for each trip). Walking to and from the terminal avoids waiting on crowded shuttles and can be an enjoyable stroll if the weather is nice. But heat, humidity, and rain can make the savings of a few dollars seem insignificant. I like to drop off the family and luggage at the terminal, then go park the car and walk back to the terminal, but occasionally I have to wait for the rain to pass or put up with a hot/humid walk. Garage, Inside, or Outdoor Lot? - outdoor surface lots are cheaper, but your car is exposed to the south Texas sun and weather. A building provides better protection and security. The parking garage provides protection, security, and gets you elevated and safe from almost any flooding. Discounts & Loyalty - there are extra savings if you sign up for these programs online and reserve after your account is tagged with the applicable discount. You can combine loyalty and one discount but you can't have multiple discounts. Security - all parking is at least fenced and gated. The buildings are enclosed and locked. Some facilities have security cameras. The Port of Galveston claims that the Port Police patrol their lots 24/7 which you won't find at the private parking lots. Electric Vehicle Charging - more and more lots are offering EV chargers. If you drive an EV like I do, you will appreciate having your car fully charged when you disembark. This perk is currently free at all parking facilities where it is offered. Remember that even a 110 volt plug will fully charge your car over the course of several days. Here is my comparison of some of the parking options. I have parked at all of these except Falstaff. Hotels There are a couple of hotels near the port and the historic Strand District in Galveston. It's a great idea to arrive a day or two early and enjoy the island ambiance. The Harbor House is very convenient to the ship and to many nice restaurants, museums, and shopping. Caution: Our room had a smell of mildew when we stayed here in May 2021, so if that bothers you I'd suggest choosing another hotel. The Tremont House is also very walkable to the Strand, the Port and nice restaurants, museums, and shopping. This is my preferred pre-cruise hotel. They offer cruise parking (for a fee) which includes shuttle service to the ships at their sister property, the Hotel Galvez, when you stay at least one night at either hotel (call to confirm details). The Tremont House is located in a beautiful historic building. The Tremont's rooftop bar has wonderful views of the island and port area. The lobby bar has live jazz on most Friday and Saturday nights. There are plenty of other hotels on the Island, many along the Seawall facing the Gulf of Mexico. Hotels providing transportation to the port or offer park & cruise options can be found here. Call the hotel that you are interested in to confirm that they provide cruise parking. Galveston has a wide range of hotel prices depending on day of week (weekends obviously much higher), whether there are major events happening, and the season (summer is the busy season here). Booking hotels during Mardi Gras (February), Lone Star Biker Rally (early November), Art Walk (every 6 weeks) and other major events will be much more expensive. Some hotels have a 2 night minimum on weekends. Galveston Dining (And A Few Drinking Establishments) Please avoid the tourist traps and chain restaurants that will leave you disappointed. Eat at these locally owned restaurants that use locally sourced, fresh food, including fresh Gulf seafood right from the docks in Galveston. All restaurants are casual dress unless noted, and all are family friendly (even most of the bars). Many serve craft beer on tap from Galveston Island Brewing. My only connection to these places is that I have personally eaten at them multiple times and I love them all! Rudy and Paco - 2028 Post Office St (21st and Post Office) - Arguably the best restaurant on the island. Wonderful food with a South and Central American flair. Best service on the island. A little expensive but worth it. We like going for lunch because it's very affordable (lunch served weekdays only). No shorts allowed at dinner. Reservations suggested and are a must on weekends or when The 1890 Grand Theater has an event. Riondo's Ristorante - 2328 Strand (24th and Strand) - Our favorite Italian restaurant on the island, and they also serve great seafood and steak. Beautiful historic building built in 1895 in the Strand Historic District. "Farm to Fork" sourcing and they make their own pasta. Tell them you "want a table in the vault." Katie's Seafood House - 2000 Wharf Road (On the water, adjacent to the Port of Galveston) - This new restaurant opened in mid-2019 and is the only restaurant in Galveston that catches their own seafood! Great food, good service, and a wonderful view of the Port of Galveston from their covered outdoor deck. Cafe at the Tremont House - 2300 Ships Mechanic Row (Mechanic Street) - Beautiful historic hotel built in 1879 near the Strand Historic District. Enter the main entrance, up a few stairs, and the cafe is just off the lobby to the right. Nice salads, flatbread pizzas, Panini served in a casual atmosphere. Most weekend evenings there is live jazz in the lobby, which is why we go here (in addition to the good food and casual, historic atmosphere). There is a beautiful bar at the opposite end of the lobby with several Galveston Brewing options on tap. Before or after dinner, take the elevator to the top floor, turn left, and walk to the end of the hall to the rooftop bar to cap off the experience. Eatcetera - 408 25th Street - Lunch only (until 4 pm, closed Sunday). Gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups, Panini. Vegan and gluten free options available. Brews Brothers Brew Pub - 2404 Strand - Huge craft beer selection, creative American bar food. Very casual. You wouldn't expect it for a bar, but the food here is excellent. Burgers (try the "Mission From God"), fresh made chips (try them with Buffalo Sauce & Bleu Cheese), local fish tacos, salads, etc. Texas Tail Distillery - New larger location at 2416 Post Office - On-site distillery for whiskey and vodka. Try the honey whiskey and other infusions. Friendly staff, fun place to try crafted drinks with local liquor, or try them all with a flight of shots! New: food is now served on site! Blvd. Seafood - 28th and Seawall - One of the best seafood restaurants on the island. There isn't a lot of curb appeal outside but the inside is very nice. The food and service are both quite good and the seafood is all local. The red snapper is amazing and always comes fresh from Katie's Seafood Market. Grotto Italian - 5222 Seawall (In the San Luis Resort) - Classic Italian restaurant featuring delicious veal, chicken, seafood, pizza, and house made pastas. This one breaks my rule of avoiding the Landrys restaurant chain, but we tried it again in February 2020 and are convinced it's a great option. Blake's Bistro - 5222 Seawall (In the San Luis Resort) - Great burgers, gumbo, seafood. Overlooks the resort pool and the Gulf of Mexico. This one breaks my rule of avoiding the Landrys restaurant chain, but we gave it several tries in February 2020 and added it to the list. The Cove Poolside Bar - 5222 Seawall (In the San Luis Resort) - Beautiful outdoor poolside bar with a swim-up bar too, all overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The pool is heated so expect swimmers even in cool weather. Great place to people watch and enjoy a drink with one of the most picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico on the island. Gypsy Joynt - 2711 Market Street - Funky family-run spot with great comfort food. Excellent pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads, etc. Breads/buns baked fresh multiple times per day. Casual, funky atmosphere. A little off the beaten path but definitely one of my favorite casual places for lunch or dinner. Maceo's Spice & Import Company - 2706 Market Street - Excellent muffaletta's, sandwiches. Simple menu to eat in or carry out in this little spice shop across the street from Gypsy Joynt. Hey Mikey's Ice Cream - 2120 Post Office Street - Ice cream is made in the store. Unique treats like Ice Cream Nachos (share with a friend) and traditional favorites. You gotta' go here! Note: this place is owned by a nice island family. It is sometimes closed over the winter holidays. Mod Coffeehouse - 2126 Post Office Street - comfortable with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Live music many weekend evenings. Coffee, tea, espresso, latte, home baked goods. Jimmy's On The Pier - 9001 Seawall - On the 2nd story above the fishing pier (enter the souvenir shop, exit to the left, and up the stairs). Very casual with great views of the seawall and Gulf. Owner has their own farm and livestock for a true "farm to table" concept; other items locally sourced. Fish tacos, burgers, seafood, local beer, full bar, etc. Mama Teresa's Flying Pizza and Italian - 416 21st Street - This is the place for pizza. They also have nice Italian dishes. Convenient to the Post Office Street Arts District for a nice after-dinner stroll. Embarkation Experience Protocols will be changing regularly until we get through the Covid craziness, but here is what we experienced in late August, 2021. Check-in times are being enforced. We had the 1st check-in time at 1:00 pm and were allowed some flexibility. They allowed Pinnacles and Suites into the terminal around 12:15 pm. The 1:00 pm people (first check-in time) were admitted around 12:30 pm. People with later check-in times were lined up outside in organized lines marked with the later check-in times. Once inside, there are several lines. Lines to the left are for vaccinated passengers. If you have unvaccinated passengers in your group (i.e. kids) they direct you to a special line all the way to the right. The purpose of the first checkpoint is to make sure you have 1) proof of vaccination 2) proof of negative Covid test 3) passport or other citizenship documents 4) boarding pass The next checkpoint is the scan for weapons/liquor. Your carry-on luggage goes through the scanner and you walk through the metal detector. If they discover liquor or prohibited items, there is a table right behind security where those items are dealt with. If you have an unvaccinated child that needs their pre-boarding Covid test, that happens next. Following this, you walk into the next room where you do the actual cruise check-in. There are quite a few check-in stations and this process takes quite a bit longer that pre-pandemic. This is where they take a photo of your vaccination card, verify your negative Covid test, check your passport or other citizenship documents, issue your wrist band showing you are vaccinated, and take your photo if you failed to upload it before the cruise. We observed that if you had completed all the online checkin steps, had your documents in hand and ready, and generally had your act together then things went much quicker. After checking in, you take the escalator or elevator upstairs to the waiting area. With the check-in times being spaced out and enforced, there isn't much waiting. You will likely move directly toward the ship. The final checkpoint is completed in the upstairs waiting area where they scan your SetSail Pass and check your proof of vaccination for the third time. After this you walk to the gangway and directly to the ship! Disembarkation Experience After having your SeaPass Card scanned, you disembark the ship, walk down the enclosed gangway, and walk down several long ramps to get to the ground floor. Just inside the luggage hall is the new facial recognition area that replaces your discussion with a Customs and Border Protection officer. You are directed to remove your facemask, look toward the facial scanner, and immediately (if all is well) you are cleared to proceed. It was interesting to see about a dozen CBP and police officers behind this area just observing the process. This is an incredible improvement to the old system of waiting for a face-to-face discussion with a CBP officer and it was a big time saver. The next step is to claim your luggage and proceed to the terminal exit. Just before exiting the terminal you will be asked by a State Agent whether you are bringing back alcohol or cigarettes (see the next section for details). Bringing Back Liquor & Cigarettes If you sail from the Port of Galveston, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has agents sitting at a table after you clear Immigration. They will ask you if you are bringing back any alcohol or cigarettes. If so, you will need to pay the state tax for importing them into the state, whether they are purchased in the ship's duty free store or in a foreign port of call. Although Texas state tax is due, these items are still exempt of any Federal duty. The law limits personal importation by an adult to once every 30 days with limits of 1 gallon of distilled spirits, 3 gallons of wine, and 288 ounces of malt beverages (24 12-ounce containers). Tax due for a 750ml bottle of wine is $3.25, for a 750ml bottle of distilled spirits is $3.50. These rates include a $3.00 "administrative fee". Cigarette tax is $1.50/pack or $15.00/carton. Other tax rates are available online. You can pay with a credit card and they will give you a receipt and a sticker to place on the bottle. Failure to pay the tax and obtain the appropriate stamp will subject violators to a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000 and/or a jail term of up to one year. Galveston Webcams Galveston has some great webcams. If you want to see what the cruise port looks like, or if your friends and family want to watch you sail away on Royal Caribbean via several live full-motion HD video cameras, go here (they have a pretty big following when ships are arriving and departing the port). There are several Carnival ships here as well, and they often block the view of the Royal Caribbean ships when they are alongside the dock. Cruise ships can be seen on the Cruise Cam, Strand Cam, Marina Cam, and Emerald Cam.
  2. As of this morning, Explorer is up in the Royal app!
  3. Feb 7, Explorer of the Seas. Hi all, I have a solo traveller that is looking to share an Interior Room expense but won't be staying in the room. If anybody have a group of 2 or 3, that would be ideal. Another solo cruiser will work too. For your trouble, you will get a bigger room as she won't be staying in the room. Thanx.
  4. T minus 2 days. Bags packed. Boarding pass printed. SetSail pass printed. Luggage tags ready. Check, check, check and check. I think I'm ready. Amazingly I don't feel like I forgotten anything, which means in about 10 hours at 35,000' I will remember exactly what I forgot. Such is cruising. For the flight to Seattle tomorrow I have a 6am departure. I had plenty of choices of flight times all day but I chose 6am so I could visit something in Seattle I've always wanted but haven't been able to yet. The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the base of the Space Needle. I'm a sucker for blown glass so I'm looking forward to this as a pre-cruise excursion. I'm flying with Delta, my favorite airline since I am heavily vested in it's frequent flier program. At 13,500 Skymiles this may be the cheapest round trip flight I've booked using frequent flier miles. A direct flight was available departing later and arriving at nearly the same time but at several thousand more miles so I chose a connection in Salt Lake City given the early time of day plus day before cruise booking. Connections don't bother me since I've flown a bunch. Loyalty pays - I've been upgraded to first class on both segments. Not bad for an 'award' ticket. My son is joining me on this cruise flying in from the East coast. With a Friday to Friday cruise itinerary it meant an extra day of vacation for him so another day on top of that to fly in the day before was a problem. He doesn't get that much time off at this point in his career. He elected to fly in the day off the cruise, something I tend to avoid. Flying from the East coast the time change is working in his favor. Fingers crossed. I booked my cruise through MEI Travel and added the official hotel for the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise when it was offered oh so long ago. Time flies, it's almost cruise day! Shout out to Jacki York at MEI Travel for proactively checking each and every sale over several months to verify I had the best price. Our cabin on this cruise is an interior with virtual balcony. A full balcony cabin was nearly twice the price, per person of course. I did an Alaskan cruise last year on Celebrity with a balcony. One Alaska lesson I learned last year was that good excursions can be pricey. Alaska excursions are well worth the price in my opinion to experience Alaska however adding up the total cost of a vacation experience on my second Alaska cruise I chose to spend money favoring excursions that were my second choice from last year over the cabin so interior virtual balcony it is. Basically by booking an interior cabin we got our excursions 'included' compared to the cost of booking a balcony. Excursions this time around: Juneau Skagway (The description read much better when I booked it!) Victoria Booked during various sales it definitely pays to book excursions early and watch sales. Most of them have increased in price over the months since booking. I booked our excursions with enough time for us to self explore before or after as weather permits. Alaska here we come! With that it's time to close my laptop and pack it, else I might forget it in the morning at oh-dark-early when my ride arrives to carry me to the airport.
  5. Hi guys, I will be sailing on this ship in August, 2020, and I would like to know any tips and tricks that we could benefit from. We are traveling on a huge budget so I want to try to stretch our money as much as possible. Btw, I’m new to this blog so hello!!! I am sailing with my hubby and two teenage daughters. Thanks!
  6. I am not really a blogger so this will just be some ramblings and photos from our 3 day Explorer cruise leaving from Sydney. Day 1 We had to be up at 4am to catch a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia which takes approximately 3 hours. Today we were flying Latam Airlines. The flight was on a Dreamliner and was very nice. I love the mood lighting in the cabin on these flights. Due to the time differences between Auckland and Sydney we arrived just after 9am. Customs processing was quick so we though the airport in 20 minutes. We caught the train from the airport directly down to Circular Quay where the ship was waiting for us. As this is only a 3 day cruise we only had carry on luggage and nothing to check in so it was straight through to the check-in area. For this cruise we are in an Owners Suite (1592) so we could use the suite check-in line but as we were early everyone at the terminal could check-in without having to wait. The ship was not ready to board yet we had to wait in a reception area on the first floor for about 20 minutes. When they did start boarding we were on screened through security and on the ship within about 10 minutes. There was no customs processing for this voyage as it is a domestic cruise. Once on board I changed out of my travel clothes straight into the swimwear I packed in our carry on. The Solarium was empty so I jumped into the pool and spent some time talking to the Life Guard so that he would get bored. I learnt he was from Indonesia and is on the ship until May. It is the only job he has to do on the ship so he was pretty happy. He said the main issue they have is not with people drowning as they are trained for that, but people falling over on the deck and hurting themselves. When his shift changed (they are on duty for 30 minutes before changing pools) I got out of the pool and had a quick soak in the hot spa. I let the sun dry me off and then we grabbed some food from the Windjammer at about 12pm. It wasn’t too busy but we took the food and ate it out by the pool. After lunch even though the cabins weren’t ready yet we went down to our cabin on deck 10 and left our bags outside our cabin door before heading up to Dizzies. They serve lunch up there for Suite guests so we just wanted to see what was on offer. The selection is small (similar to the food available on Cafe Promenade) so if you are after a quick light lunch it is fine. We didn’t have anything and went off to check out the Diamond Lounge. The Diamond Lounge on Explorer is much nicer than the Concierge Lounge in my opinion as it is light and airy and has a nice outside area. Diamond Lounge Inside Diamond Lounge Outside Concierge Lounge After checking out the lounges we headed back to our cabin to see what that was like. Normally we have a Grand Suite but this time paid a little extra to try an Owners Suite. The layout was different from a Grand Suite in that’s the Island that normally separates the “bar” and “living” area is not there and there is a table and 2 chairs in its place. The living area itself is spacious with a large couch and a couple of chairs. the bathroom has a free standing shower as well as a bath and a bidet. The Grand Suite normally only has a toilet and over the bath shower. The space itself seemed smaller than a Grand Suite but maybe that was because there was more in it. The sleeping area was also large and had a picture window that you could sit and look out of. Very nice. The balcony seemed a little smaller but still had a table and 2 chairs and it was fine for what we need. Because we are Diamond and in a Suite waiting for us in our cabin when we arrived was 1) fruit platter, 2) 4 biscuits 3) 4 bottles of water 4) 1 large bottle of Evian water and 5) 2 cans of coke. Here is the list of Suite services for this cruise. At 5pm it was time for the guest assembly drill. We went down at about 4:45pm to avoid some of the crowds. Our muster station was on deck 4 and there were already quite a few people there when we arrived. Unlike Ovation they did not scan our sea pass cards, rather they ticked us off on a piece of paper. Even at this time it was clear that some people had spent most of their time on the ship at the bar. After the drill as we made our way back to our cabin following some people you would think we were out at sea in a 4 metre swell. Once back at our room we changed into some casual clothes and headed off to the Concierge lounge. It was busy but still possible to get a seat. Most people in the lounge were suit guests but didn’t stay long. Prior to our cruise we purchased the ultimate dining package and I had emailed the concierge about booking Chops for night one. I needed to check with him what time dinner was booked for. We stayed for 1 drink and then went up to the diamond lounge. We were there just after 6pm and apparently it had been busy but a lot of people had left by then. It was easy to find a table outside and we grabbed a couple of Cokes. The Diamond Concierge came over to make sure we were “legit”. We asked her to book Giovanni’s for dinner for night 2. We stayed there for around 40 minutes and then got ready to go watch the sail away at 6:45pm before heading to Chops. The weather had turned a bit rainy by then but people were still having a good time. P It was now 7pm and time for dinner. As we weren’t sure what Chop’s policy was on diamond drinks we grabbed a glass of wine and coke from the Windjammer bar before making our way into Chops.i checked the waiter and he said we could use our diamond vouchers in Chops so that is good to know for the rest of the cruise. I ordered the shrimp cocktail for me entree and Anita had the tuna crab cake. Both were delicious as usual. For the main I had the half roast chicken and Anita had the filet mignon. Sorry they were so good that we ate them before I took photos. They looked great and tasted better. We had to wait a while to let the food settle before we were game enough to have desert. Anita decided not to have anything but I went with the red velvet cake and I didn’t regret it. As we had the ultimate dining package there was no bill to pay so we decided to have a quick wander around the promenade. Most of the shops were still open apart from Port Merchants which does not open on Australian domestic cruises. Anita was feeling pretty tired by this stage so she went back to the cabin. i elected to go to the casino and try my luck on the roulette table. I retrospect I should have just gone to bed and saved my money. I enjoyed it all the same. After that it was time to head off to the cabin for some sleep. It has been a long day but thoughly enjoyable one. i suspect tomorrow will be a late start. Stray Observations Boarding was very fast. Getting to the port early certainly helped with this. The majority of guests are Australian’s as you would expect and most would be under 45. The guests are mainly composed of birthday, anniversary, divorce party hens and bachelor type groups and also families with children. 3 days is perfect for this type of cruise. Explorer now has free style machines. It didn’t have those last time we were on her. Voom has been working well. I take a photo of the voom code and airdrop to all our devices. This means if we want to connect another device I can just look at the photo without having to carry the piece of paper with me. Right that is me signing off for day 1. Hopefully I will wake up before day 2 is over so I have something to post
  7. The Royal Caribbean Instagram and Snapchat stories feature the great DanandMoore. Whenever he takes over the RC accounts, I don't miss anything he posts because he is so good at sharing the experience. He is currently on the Explorer Alaska itinerary, and it's amazing to watch. If you aren't already, follow either the IG or Snap stories...it's helping me look forward to the Alaska cruise, and ignore my Harmony GC (not going) blues....
  8. Since I used this board extensively prior to my recent Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska on Explorer of the Seas on June 30th (and gained valuable insights from Matt's podcasts), I thought I'd share my experience with future cruisers. I traveled with my 15 year old son, so my perspective is a little different since I wasn't with my wife or a big group. All in all, we had a good vacation, but it wasn't a great vacation. We flew into Seattle the day of the cruise (this is really easy if you live on the west coast) and used the cruise shuttle at the airport. I didn't have a reservation and intended to take Uber, but everyone must have had the same idea because the Uber charge quickly escalated to over $100 by the time our luggage came off the plane. The shuttle was only $27 per person and allowed bags to be dropped off right to our room. They were pretagged and this made things very easy. Our cabin was a balcony cabin on the 9th floor on the hub near the elevators. I loved the convenience of the location and we never heard anyone in the hallways. Check in was easy and we headed up to the Wind Jammer to have lunch. Exploring the ship that day was an awesome experience and the excitement of our fellow passengers on the decks at sail away was contagious. The sun was out and the weather was warm. Kids (there were a lot of them on this particular cruise) were swimming in the pools and adults were enjoying drinks at the bars. Unfortunately, this was to be the last day of warmth and sunshine that we would experience until we arrived in Victoria 6 days later. At this point, I'd like to mention that I thought the food was very good everywhere we ate (except at Johnny Rockets where the burgers were just ok and not worth an extra charge). We had My Time Dining and, being a party of 2, could usually get seated at anytime without a wait. Lobster night in the MDR was a highlight. We had breakfast at the Wind Jammer every morning and the hot tip is to go to the omelet bar to have your eggs made fresh. I sometimes just had a scramble made with ham...you didn't need to order an omelet per se. If you are traveling with kids who are picky eaters (like my son), they will have tons of options for food. The negatives of this cruise were related to the weather. After sail away, the weather became chilly, rainy and (unfortunately) foggy for the entire time we were in Alaska. I couldn't take a decent picture and never saw any wild life in the ocean or on shore. The supposed beautiful scenery the Alaska is famous for, was hidden by low clouds and fog. I recalled listening to Matt's podcast with Stephanie Miller (travel agent) about Alaska and she made the comment "be flexible" when it comes to your tours. I couldn't agree more! Our helicopter trip to the glacier in Juneau was cancelled (we took a bus to Mendenhall Glacier instead...easy to do last minute, by the way) and the ship couldn't enter Tracey Arm Fjord so we basically just floated around the entrance and viewed small ice chunks in a foggy bay. In Skagway we chose not to do the train because I really wanted my son to get some physical activity at this point. We did a hike/float trip that was "OK", but it was chilly, very windy in town, and on the hike, and we still didn't see even an eagle! The next two days were spent on ship with little to do due to weather. Because of rain and wind, you really couldn't spend time on the outside decks. RC did keep one pool open, as well as the jaccuzi's, but they got little use due to the temperatures on deck. The rock climbing wall, flow rider and even the mini golf were all closed most of the time. That kept you in the inner decks of the ship and I felt that this was too much time to not get a little physical activity. Ice skating was crowded and had limited openings, the gym was packed since there weren't a lot of other options and the shows were just "OK", with the exception of the ice skating show which was outstanding. When we finally got off in Victoria, the sun was out again. We rented bikes near the dock (my son wasn't so interested in visiting gardens) and rode around for 6 hours. Ironically, the port that I was least looking forward to ended up being our favorite because we could finally enjoy some nice weather. We kept our luggage the last night and were able to self-depart the ship without any issues, in very little time, and had quite a few Ubers available to take us back to a hotel in Seattle that we reserved for the final night of our vacation. Here are a few random thoughts: The ultimate drink package turned out to be an excellent value, especially since you tend to be on the ship more on this particular cruise. I got my money's worth with a cocktail or two, several beers and a cappuccino every day. I also used it for bottled waters for both my son and I (though I know you really aren't supposed to share the benefits with another person). I like IPA's and RC is really lacking on this trend, but they did feature Alaska Brewery beers that included some delicious craft beers. The casinos were pretty busy, and smokey, but the dealers were really nice and the table limits were reasonable ($5 craps), if you like to gamble. As other bloggers have reported, the ship never seemed crowded! I don't know how this was possible, considering we were pretty much stuck inside for a good portion of the cruise. The internet was spotty while in Alaska so don't expect to download a book, or even check email, for half of the time you are out at sea. The teen club didn't appeal to my son, but the arcade room was popular. It added up, though, to around $100 at the end of the cruise. I allowed him charging privileges on my credit card so he could play games and have an occasional soda. The extra money spent for a balcony cabin turned out to be a waste since the rain/fog didn't allow us to use it even once on our cruise. I think RC did as good of a job as they could have with keeping passengers entertained (games, lounge singers, bingo...), but this round trip cruise had too many sea days for my taste. I think, in retrospect, a one way north or south cruise may be a better option because it has an extra port and fewer sea days, but I did like the convenience of flying in and out of Seattle. I hope this is helpful to anyone going on Explorer to Alaska this summer and I hope the weather is awesome!
  9. When we disembark Explorer of the Seas in Seattle we will some time to explore the city before heading to the airport. Our flight is at 5:30 pm. Does anyone know what our options are for dealing with our luggage for that time? I not planning on dragging luggage around for 5 people through Seattle. Does the Pier have lockers or storage available? Does the airport have storage available? Thanks
  10. Our upcoming cruise on Explorer of the Seas will be our first RC cruise. Do people decorate their doors like on a Disney Cruise? Thanks
  11. Does anyone know if there is a service in the Seattle area that makes deliveries to the cruise ships? We had done this before out of Port Canaveral and had gift baskets delivered to our room. Just wondering if there was a similar service in Seattle. Thanks
  12. News Flash - Voyager of The Seas and her slighlty younger and bigger sister Explorer of the Seas met on Sunday November 28th in Sydney Harbour and made the harbour look like a small bathtub. Thanks "Cruise Advice" for posting this wonderful video on Youtube. Up until Sunday, Voyager was the largest cruise ship to homeport Australia that title nows goes to her sister Explorer of the Seas.
  13. Did anyone know about the "FreeKids Alaska" promotion? I just received my invoice from my TA and it shows reduction of my son's fare under a "FreeKids Alaska" promotion. It may be available on the website, by I never saw reference to this until I saw the invoice.
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